More than three years after the murder of George Floyd focused the nation’s attention on racism in law enforcement, Minneapolis’s Third Precinct police station, which was set ablaze and looted during the tumultuous days after Floyd’s death, remains abandoned. Three years after “defund the police” became a rallying cry across the nation, efforts to divert resources from police or do away with conventional policing entirely have largely been abandoned in Minneapolis and beyond. The movement faltered in Minneapolis after activists failed to build broad support for a goal that lacked a clear definition, and an actionable plan. As crime surged during the early coronavirus pandemic and officers left the police force in droves, Republicans seized on the debate to paint Democrats as being recklessly soft on crime, reports the New York Times.
“The language and the politics prevented folks from delving more deeply into the core conversation some activists were trying to have,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer in Minneapolis who has been a critic of the police department. The movement to abolish conventional police departments predates the murder of Floyd. In the years before his death, a Minneapolis group called MPD150 had been building grass roots support for a “police-free future” — a vision that contemplated a phased end to conventional policing by making dramatic investments in housing and social services. Its first move was to corner Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis outside his home in June 2020, and demand that he commit to abolishing the Police Department. As cameras rolled, one of the movement’s leaders made clear that they were seeking the outright disbandment of the Police Department, not a reallocation of resources. “We don’t want no more police,” she said. “We don’t want people with guns toting around in our community.” Many residents have given up on the local public transportation system, where some stations increasingly have become gathering points for people who openly smoke fentanyl and other drugs. The number of car thefts and carjackings skyrocketed. As of early June, more than 4,100 vehicles had been stolen in the city this year, nearly twice as many as during the same period last year.